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The Dionysos Cup by Exekias, c. 540 B.C. 

Staatliche AntH{ensammluTigen, Munich. Photograph by Dr. Max Hirmer. 

The Dolphin 


Papers delivered hy Ashley Montagu 
and John C. Lilly at a symposium 
at the Clark Library ^ 2j October ig6z 


f K '. rwr> 


University of California, Los Angeles 



.ECENTLY THE DOLPHIN has bccome the focus of 
much scientific interest and investigation which have led to 
flattering pronouncements about its remarkable inteUigence, 
amiability, and astonishing friendliness towards man. It was in 
consequence of such activities that a symposium was held at the 
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library to consider the back- 
ground to contemporary studies of the dolphin. The presenta- 
tions of Dr. Ashley Montagu and Dr. John C. Lilly were re- 
ceived so favorably that it was decided to make them more 
widely available in the present form. 

As will be readily apparent to any reader, Dr. Montagu has 
demonstrated conclusively that had the writings of the ancients 
been heeded we should long since have paid proper respect to 
this intelligent mammal, and Dr. Lilly has reinforced such 
classical appreciation by an account of his own astonishing ob- 
servations of dolphin behavior. It is to be hoped that these two 
accounts will contribute to a lasting appreciation of our remark- 
able aquatic friend. 

C. D. O'Malley 



by Ashley Montagu 

The friendly Dolphin, while within the maine, 
At libertie delightes, to sport and play, 
Himself e is fresh, and doth no whit retaine 
The brinish saltnes of the boundless Sea 
Wherein he lives. Such is the secret s\ill 
Of Nature wording, all thinges at her will. 

Henry Peacham, Mi?ierva Britanna, 1612 

The History of the Dolphin 


/ hat/e met with a story, which, although authenticated 
by undoubted evidence, loo\s very like a fable. 

Pliny the Younger 



.HE HISTORY of the dolphiii is one of the most fasci- 
nating and instructive in the historiography and the history of 
ideas in the western world. Indeed, it provides one of the most 
illuminating examples of what has probably occurred many 
times in human culture — a virtually complete loss of knowledge, 
at least in most segments of the culture, of what was formerly 
well understood by generations of men. "Not in entire forget- 
fulness" in some regions of the world, but certainly in "a sleep 
and a forgetting" in the most sophisticated centers of the western 

Dolphins are mammals. They belong in the order Cetacea, 
suborder Odontoceti, family Delphinidae. Within the Delphini- 
dae there are some twenty-two genera and about fifty-five 
species. The count includes the Killer Whale, the False Killer 
Whale, the White Whale, and the Pilot Whale, all of which are 
true dolphins. There are two subfamilies, the Delphinapterinae, 
consisting of the two genera Monodon monocerus , the Narwhal, 
and Delphiiiapterus leucas, the White Whale or Beluga. These 
two genera are distinguished by the fact that none of the neck 
vertebrae are fused, whereas in all remaining genera, embraced 
in the subfamily Delphininae, at least the first and second neck 
vertebrae are fused. 

It was Aristotle in his History of Animals (521b) who first 
classified whales, porpoises, and dolphins as Cetacea, ra ktity] 
dlov SeXifLs Kal (pcoKaiva Kal (paKaiva. Aristotle's account of the 
Cetacea was astonishingly accurately written, and quite evi- 
dently from firsthand knowledge of these animals. 

While most dolphins are inhabitants of the seas, there are 
some that live in rivers, and quite a few that are denizens of 
fresh-water rivers removed many miles from the sea. With one 
exception the diet of dolphins is principally fish. The one excep- 
tion is Sotalia teuszii, which lives in the Kamerun River, and is 
believed to feed exclusively on vegetable matter. The Ting Ling 
dolphin (Lipotes vexillifer) lives in Ting Ling Lake, six hun- 
dred miles up the Yang-tse-Kiang. Another dolphin, the Susu 
or Ganges dolphin {Platanista gangetica) of Brahmapootra, the 
Ganges, and the Indus, has lenseless eyes and is almost blind. 
The fresh-water dolphins belong in the family Platanistidae. 

It is of interest to note that, in connection with the vegetable 
feeding habits of the Kamerun dolphin, Lycophron, in his Alex- 
andra, makes his dolphins feed on trees, and Ovid, in the Meta- 
morphoses (III, I, 202), describes a flood in which the dolphins 
take possession of the woods. Nonnus Panopolitanus, in the 
Dionysiaca (VI, 265-266), also describes dolphins as feeding on 

The normal range of length of dolphins is from 5 to 14 feet; 
the larger species, the whales, are considerably longer. Brain 
weight is between 1600 and 1700 grams in the familiar dolphins, 
and reaches 9200 grams and more in the whales. The large brain 
is associated with what, all observers familiar with these animals 
agree, is a quite considerable intelligence. 

Here we must pause to make a plea for the proper usage of 
common names. The term "porpoise" refers to the small, beak- 
less Delphinidae, which have a triangular dorsal fin and spade- 
shaped teeth. The name "dolphin" embraces all other members 
of the family, except the larger forms, which are called whales. 

The porpoises mostly belong in the genus Phocaena, the best 
known species of which, the Common Porpoise {Phocaena pho- 
caena), never reaches a length exceeding 6 feet and weighs lOO 
to 120 pounds. There are some six species. The finless black por- 
poise constitutes the only other genus with a single species 
Neomeris phocaenoides. 

All porpoises are dolphins. The Bottle-Nosed Dolphin, Tur- 
siops truncatus, is sometimes called a porpoise. This is incorrect. 
Tur slops is a true dolphin, and should not be called what it is not. 

Here we shall be principally concerned with the Bottle-Nosed 
Dolphin and with the Common Dolphin. The Bottle-Nosed 
Dolphin has a short, well-defined snout two or three inches long, 
and is characterized by a prominent fin in the middle of the 
back. Coloration is dark above and light below. Gestation lasts 
some ten months, birth is monotocous, and the young are 
suckled for about i8 months. The tail is delivered first, and the 
infant, about three feet long and weighing about twenty-five 
pounds, is immediately quite active, though much in need of the 
care of its devoted mother. The infant will eventually grow to be 
between ii and 12 feet in length, and weigh about 300 kilo- 
grams. Tursiops has an enormously wide range, being common- 
est along the Atlantic coast of America, from Maine to Florida, 
and occurs in the Bay of Biscay in the Mediterranean Sea, and as 
far south as New Zealand. 

The Common Dolphin, Delphinus delphis, is readily recog- 
nized by its well-defined narrow beak and distinctive coloration. 
The beak is some 5 to 6 inches narrower and finer than in the 
Bottle-Nosed Dolphin, and is sharply marked off by a deep V- 
shaped groove from the low reclining forehead. The Common 
Dolphin reaches a length up to 8|/^ feet. Its range of distribution 
is very wide, for it may be met in any temperate or warm sea 
throughout the world, and occurs at times in vast schools. 

Whether the dolphin of classical antiquity is Delphinus or 
Tursiops is not usually determinable, although each undoubt- 

edly played its independent role in the stories told of dol- 
phins. From the recorded evidence available to us it is clear 
that, except for the larger species, the whales, all dolphins ap- 
pear to be characterized by playfulness and friendliness toward 
man. There are, however, differences which appear to express 
themselves mostly in captivity. At least, Tursiops adjusts much 
better to captivity than does Delphinus. At marine studios 
Tursiops has established itself as a highly intelligent, playful, 
and friendly performer. Delphinus, on the other hand, while 
naturally all these things, in captivity tends to be timid and not 
very playful. 

The Common and Bottle-Nosed Dolphins are those best 
known to the western world, but many of the traits which have 
recently been rediscovered concerning these creatures have been 
well known to other peoples for millennia. It is only a certain 
segment of the western world, its more sophisticated representa- 
tion, and particularly the learned world, which dismissed as 
myths the tales told about dolphins in classical antiquity. And 
this is the real burden of the story I have to tell you. Some of 
these antique tales may have been myths, but as we shall see, 
many of them were not, and undoubtedly a number of the 
myths were based on real events partially embroidered by the 
imagination and improved, like good wine, by time. But good 
wine needs no bush, and I shall sample this wine as palatably 
as I find it. 

The earliest representation of a dolphin I have been able to 
find is from a pictographic seal from Crete, estimated to date 
from 3500 to 2200 B.C. The earliest painting of a dolphin thus 
far recovered is from the ancient Peloponnesian city of Tiryns. 
The date is about 1600 B.C. In that city it is also represented 
in stucco floors. Several good examples of dolphins are furnished 
by seventh century Corinthian art. The dolphin is also well rep- 
resented in Minoan art. In Cyprus it is frequently represented 
in Late Helladic vases, shards, amphorae, in metalwork, en- 

gravings, and in stucco floors as at Tiryns. Among the impor- 
tations from Crete into Helladic art appear to have been certain 
styhzed forms of the dolphin. 

An early literary reference to the dolphin occurs in Aesop's 
fable, "The Monkey and the Dolphin." During a violent storm 
a ship was capsized, and among those thrown into the water was 
a monkey. Observing its distress a dolphin came to its rescue, 
and taking the monkey upon its back the dolphin headed for 
shore. Opposite Piraeus, the harbor of Athens, the dolphin in- 
quired of the monkey whether he was an Athenian. "Oh, yes," 
replied the monkey, "and from one of the best families." "Then 
you know Piraeus," said the dolphin. "Very well, indeed," said 
the monkey, "he is one of my most intimate friends." Where- 
upon, outraged by so gross a deceit, the dolphin took a deep dive 
and left the monkey to its fate. 

I take it that ever since that day monkeys have very sensibly 
refrained from speech. It is far better to remain silent even at 
the risk of being taken for a fool or a rogue, than to open one's 
mouth and remove all doubt. 

Aesop flourished about 600 B.C. His story suggests a consid- 
erable knowledge of the ways of dolphins, and this indicates 
that knowledge of the dolphin was already old in his time. 

There are several variant Greek myths on the origin of the 
dolphin. All of them relate to Dionysos. In one version Dionysos 
is an adult, in another he is a child. The first group of legends 
represent the epiphany of Dionysos, symbolizing the battle be- 
tween winter and summer. Winter is represented by the death 
of Dionysos who disappears into the water, from which he is 
brought back on the top of a dolphin as the returning springtime 
(Apollodorus, III, 5, 3). Another version has Dionysos, whether 
as child or adult varies, being conveyed by ship to Naxos by 
Tyrrhenian mariners. The latter conceive the idea of kidnaping 
him. Dionysos senses their treachery, and bidding his com- 
panions strike up on their musical instruments, he produces a 


Bacchic wild dance in the mariners who throw themselves over- 
board and are changed into dolphins. 

The popular belief in antiquity in the human intelligence of 
dolphins and their kindly feeling toward man was explained 
by the ancient writers in the light of the transformation of the 
Tyrrhenian pirates into dolphins. (See Lucian, Marine Dia- 
logues, 8; Oppian, Halieutica, I, 649-654, 1098, V, 422, 5i9f; 
Porphyry, De Abstinentia, III, 16.) As Oppian (I, 1089) in his 
Halieutica has it, in William Diaper's charming translation: 

So Dolphins teem, whom subject Fish revere. 
And show the smiling Seas their Infant-Heir. 
All other Kinds, whom Parent-Seas confine. 
Dolphins excell; that Race is all divine. 
Dolphins were Men (Tradition hands the Tale) 
Laborious Swains bred on the Tuscan Vale: 
Transform'd by Bacchus, and by Neptune lov'd, 
They all the Pleasures of the Deep improv'd. 
When new-made Fish the God's Command obey'd, 
Plung'd in the Waves, and untry'd Fins displayed, 
No further Change relenting Bacchus wrought, 
Nor have the Dolphins all the Man forgot; 
The conscious Soul retains her former Thought. 

The god of the golden trident who rules over the seas, Posei- 
don, would not have prospered in his wooing of Amphitrite if 
it had not been for the assistance of a dolphin, who apprized 
Poseidon of her hiding-place. For this service, as is well-known, 
Poseidon set the dolphin among the stars in the constellation 
which bears its name to this day. 

It is interesting in this connection that in a modern Greek folk- 
tale from Zacynthos, Poseidon changes a hero who has fallen 
into the sea into a dolphin until such time as he should find a 
maiden ready to be his wife. After some time the dolphin rescues 
a shipwrecked king and his daughter, the princess by way of 
reward takes him for her husband, and the spell is broken (Bern- 
hard Schmidt, Das VolI{sleben der Neugriechen, p. 135). 


The cult of Apollo Delphinus was initiated, so legend has it, 
by Icadius who, leaving his native land of Lycia, which he had 
named for his mother, set out for Italy. Shipwrecked on the way, 
he was taken on the back of a dolphin, which set him down near 
Mount Parnassus, where he founded a temple to his father 
Apollo, and called the place Delphi after the dolphin. For this 
reason the dolphin became among the things most sacred to 
Apollo (Servius, Commentarii in Vergilii Aeneidos, III, 332; 
also Cornificius Longus, De Etymis Deorum). 

Herodotos, writing of Periander (fl. 600 B.C.) tyrant of Cor- 
inth, tells one of the most famous of all stories of the dolphin 
(it is mentioned by Shakespeare in the first act of Twelfth 
Night). "In his time," writes Herodotos (b. 484 B.C.), "a very 
wonderful thing is said to have happened. The Corinthians and 
the Lesbians agree in their account of the matter. They relate 
that Arion of Methymna, who, as a player on the lyre, was sec- 
ond to no man living at that time, and who was, so far as we 
know, the first to invent the didiyrambic measure, to give it its 
name, and to conduct in it at Corinth, was carried to Taenarum 
on the back of a dolphin. 

"He had lived, it is said, at the court of Periander, when a 
longing came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having 
made rich profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas 
to Corinth. He therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were 
Corinthians, thinking that there was no people in whom he 
could more safely confide; and, going on board, he set sail from 
Tarentum. The sailors, however, when they reached the open 
sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and seize upon his 
riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees, beseeching 
them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money. 
But they refused; and required him either to kill himself out- 
right, if he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss 
of time to leap overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged 
them, since such was their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon 

the quarter-deck, dressed in his full costume, and there to play 
and sing, and promising that, as soon as his song was ended, he 
would destroy himself. Delighted at the prospect of hearing the 
very best singer in the world, they consented, and withdrew 
from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion dressed 
himself in the full costume of his calling, took his lyre, and 
standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian [a very high 
pitched lively and spirited song]. His strain ended, he flung 
himself, fully attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Cor- 
inthians then sailed on to Corinth. As for Arion, a dolphin, they 
say, took him upon his back and carried him to Taenarum, 
where he went ashore, and thence proceeded to Corinth in his 
musician's dress, and told all that had happened to him. Peri- 
ander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward, 
to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for 
the return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them 
before him and asked them if they could give him any tidings of 
Arion. They returned for answer that he was alive and in good 
health in Italy, and that they had left him at Tarentum, where 
he was doing well. Thereupon Arion appeared before them, 
just as he was when he jumped from the vessel : the men, aston- 
ished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their 
guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians 
give; and there is to this day at Taenarum an ofFering of Arion's 
at the shrine, which is a small figure in bronze, representing a 
man seated upon a dolphin." {The History of Herodotus, Clio, 
1, 23-24.) 

Commenting on this tale the poet Bianor, in The Gree\ An- 
thology {Declamatory Epigrams, 308), remarks, "So the sea 
presumably contains fish whose righteousness exceeds that of 

Coins of Methymna, in Lesbos, Arion's birthplace, show him 
riding a dolphin. In one form or another the dolphin is repre- 


sented on the coins of some forty Greek cities, and doubtless 
most Greeks knew the reason why. 

Phny the Elder, in his Natural History (IX, 8, 24-28), writes 
as follows : 

"The dolphin is an animal that is not only friendly to man- 
kind but is also a lover of music, and it can be charmed by sing- 
ing in harmony, but particularly by the sound of the water- 
organ. It is not afraid of a human being as something strange 
to it, but comes to meet vessels at sea and sports and gambols 
round them, actually trying to race them and passing them even 
when under full sail. In the reign of the late lamented Augustus 
a dolphin that had been brought into the Lucrine Lake fell 
marvellously in love with a certain boy, a poor man's son, who 
used to go from the Baiae district to school at Pozzuoli, because 
fairly often the lad when loitering about the place at noon called 
him to him by the name of Snubnose and coaxed him with bits 
of the bread he had with him for the journey, — I should be 
ashamed to tell the story were it not that it has been written 
about by Maecenas and Fabianus and Flavius Alfius and many 
others, — and when the boy called to it at whatever time of day, 
although it was concealed in hiding, it used to fly to him out of 
the depth, eat out of his hand, and let him mount on its back, 
sheathing as it were the prickles of its fin, and used to carry him 
when mounted right across the bay to Pozzuoli to school, bring- 
ing him back in similar manner, for several years, until the boy 
died of disease, and then it used to keep coming sorrowfully 
and like a mourner to the customary place, and itself also ex- 
pired, quite undoubtedly from longing. Another dolphin in 
recent years at Hippo Diarrhytus on the coast of Africa similarly 
used to feed out of people's hands and allow itself to be stroked, 
and play with swimmers and carry them on its back. The Gov- 
ernor of Africa, Flavianus, smeared it all over with perfume, 
and the novelty of the scent apparently put it to sleep : it floated 
lifelessly about, holding aloof from human intercourse for some 


months as if it had been driven away by insult; but afterwards 
it returned and was an object of wonder as before. The expense 
caused to their hosts by persons of official position who came to 
see it forced the people of Hippo to destroy it. Before these oc- 
currences a similar story is told about a boy in the city of lasus, 
with whom a dolphin was observed for a long time to be in love, 
and while eagerly following him to the shore when he was going 
away it grounded on the sand and expired; Alexander the Great 
made the boy head of the priesthood of Poseidon at Babylon, 
interpreting the dolphin's affection as a sign of the deity's favour. 
Hegesidemus writes that in the same city of lasus another boy 
also, named Hermias, while riding across the sea in the same 
manner lost his life in die waves of a sudden storm, but was 
brought back to the shore, and the dolphin confessing itself the 
cause of his death did not return out to sea and expired on dry 
land. Theophrastus records that exactly the same thing occurred 
at Naupactos too. Indeed there are unlimited instances : the peo- 
ple of Amphilocus and Taranto tell the same stories about boys 
and dolphins; and these make it credible that also the skilled 
harper Arion, when at sea the sailors were getting ready to kill 
him with the intention of stealing the money he had made, suc- 
ceeded in coaxing them to let him first play a turn on his harp, 
and the music attracted a school of dolphins, whereupon he 
dived into the sea and was taken up by one of them and carried 
ashore at Cape Matapan." 

A very similar but apparently quite independent account of 
these stories is given by the younger Pliny, in his Letters (IX, 


The elder Pliny then goes on to tell of the manner in which 
dolphins assist fishermen, which corresponds closely with the ac- 
counts given by recent observers of this cooperative activity be- 
tween fishermen and dolphins. (For accounts of these see 
Antony Alpers, Dolphins, 146 sq.) 

There are numerous other stories similar to those given by the 


Plinys from classical antiquity, but it is quite impossible to re- 
count them here.' What they all have in common is the friendli- 
ness of the dolphin for human beings, their rescue of them when 
they were thrown into the sea, their playfulness, especially with 
children, and their interest in almost any sort of sound. All these 
traits came to be regarded as mythical by later and more sophis- 
ticated ages, and Usener {Die Sintfiuthsagen) comments on the 
effect that the prevalence of these tales had even upon the scien- 
tific thought of antiquity, making it difficult for such thinkers 
as Aristotle to get away from the behef in the dolphin's ability 
to carry a rider, and in its capacity for human feeling (Aristotle, 
History of Animals, 631a). But Aristotle was right and Herr 
Usener wrong. The delightful thing about most of these myths 
is that they all appear to be based on solid fact, and not on the 
fancies attributed to the original narrators. Another typical mod- 
ern gloss by a highly sophisticated writer, biologically not un- 
knowledgeable, Norman Douglas, is the following: Comment- 
ing on the delphic mythology, he writes, "From these and many 
other sources, we may gather that there was supposed to exist 
an obscure but powerful bond of affection between this animal 
and humanity, and that it was endowed with a certain kind- 
heartedness and man-loving propensity. This is obviously not 
the case ; the dolphin cares no more about us than cares the had- 
dock. What is the origin of this beHef ? I conjecture that the 
beast was credited with these social sentiments out of what may 
be called poetic reciprocation. Mankind, loving the merry gam- 
bols and o ther endearing characteristics of the dolphin, which 

^ Among the many well-known figures of classical mythology said to have been 
saved by dolphins from the sea are Eikadios, Enalos, Koiranos, Phalanthos, Taras, etc. 
In many other cases the corpses were brought ashore by a dolphin, which then expired 
on reaching land (similarly, with minor variations, was this so with Palaimon or 
Melikertes, Dionysios and Hermias of lasos, Hesiod, and the boys already referred 
to from Baiae and Naupaktos). Similar incidents reappear in the writings of the hagi- 
ographers. Saints Martinianos of Kaisareia, Kallistratos of Carthage, Basileios the 
younger of Constantinople, were each saved from a watery grave by a couple of dol- 
phins. The corpse of Saint Loukianos of Antioch was brought ashore by a large 
dolphin, which then expired on the sand. See Klement, Avion, 1-64, and Usener, Die 
Sintfiuthsagen, 138-180. 


has a playful trick of escorting vessels for its own amusement, 
whose presence signified fair weather, and whose parental at- 
tachment to its offspring won their esteem — quite apart from its 
fabled, perhaps real, love of music or at least of noisy sounds — 
were pleased to invest it with feelings akin to their own. They 
were fond of the dolphin; what more natural and becoming 
than that the dolphin should be fond of them?" (Birds and 
Beasts of the Greeks Anthology, p. i6i.) 

But Douglas was undisillusionedly wrong, and the dolphins 
are right, and so is the "mankind" that believed in their friend- 
liness. Though pleased to see the dolphins play, it is to be re- 
gretted that Douglas did not mind his compass and his way, for: 

Had the curteous Dolphins heard 
One note of his, they would have dar'd 
To quit the waters, to enjoy 
In banishment such melody. 

John Hall, 1646. 

In order to avoid any imputation that I may be attempting to 
play Euhemerus" to the dolphin's tale, the facts may be allowed 
to speak for themselves — always remembering that facts never 
speak for themselves, but are at the mercy of their interpreters. 
All, then, that I am concerned to show here, by citing the con- 
temporary evidence, is that, in essence, the so-called myths of 
the ancients were based on solid facts of observation and not, as 
has hitherto been supposed, on the imaginings of mythmakers. 

^Euhemerus {circa second half of the fourth century B.C.) attempted a rationalistic 
explanation of the mythology prevailing in his time. The theory he propounded, in his 
novel of travel, Sacred History, was simply an extension of the current skeptical-scien- 
tific attitude to matters which until that time had been accepted without question. 
That theory was that the gods were merely men who because of their great exploits 
or beneficence had been accorded divine honors. In Crete, coming upon the remains 
of a tomb bearing the name of Zeus, Euhemerus argued that even Zeus had probably 
been no more than a great conqueror, who died and was buried in Crete, and after- 
wards deified. This creditable anthropological attempt to historicize mythology, though 
it failed to convince, is nevertheless worthy of great respect. As A. B. Cook wrote, if 
Euhemerus said that Zeus was a Cretan king when he ought to have said that Cretan 
kings played the part of Zeus, it is a pardonable error. (Zens, I, 662.) 


Let us begin with a brief account of the most recent and most 
thoroughly documented story of a free-dweUing dolphin's social 
interaction with human beings. This is the story of Opo, a fe- 
male Tursiops that made its appearance early in 1955 at Opononi, 
a small township just outside the mouth of Hokianga Harbour, 
on the western side of the North Island of New Zealand. From 
allowing itself at first to be rubbed with an oar or mop carried 
on the fishermen's launches, it began to glide in near the beach 
among the bathers. The cheerful putt-putt of a motor-launch or 
of an outboard motor was an irresistible attraction for Opo, and 
she would follow the boat like a dog, playing or cruising round 
it. If she had an urge to wander, starting up the motor would 
invariably draw her back again. Mr. Piwai Toi, a Maori farmer, 
who was the first to observe Opo, writes, "She was really and 
truly a children's playmate. Although she played with grown- 
ups she was really at her charming best with a crowd of children 
swimming and wading. I have seen her swimming amongst 
children almost begging to be petted. She had an uncanny knack 
of finding out those who were gentle among her young ad- 
mirers, and keeping away from the rougher elements. If they 
were all gentle then she would give of her best." (Antony Alpers, 
The Dolphin, pp. 228-229.) 

The child the dolphin favored was a thirteen-year-old girl 
named Jill Baker. At fourteen Jill wrote the following account 
of her experience with Opo: 

"I think why the dolphin became so friendly with me was be- 
cause I was always gentle with her and never rushed at her as 
so many bathers did. No matter how many went in the water 
playing with her, as soon as I went in for a swim she would 
leave all the others and go off side-by-side with me. I remember 
on one occasion I went for a swim much further up the beach 
than where she was playing, and I was only in the water a short 
while when she bobbed up just in front of my face and gave me 
such a fright. On several other occasions when I was standing 


in the water with my legs apart she would go between them and 
pick me up and carry me a short distance before dropping me 
again. At first she didn't like the feel of my hands and would 
dart away, but after a while when she realized I would not harm 
her she would come up to me to be rubbed and patted. She 
would quite often let me put little children on her back for a 
moment or two." (In Antony Alpers, The Dolphin, p. 229.) 

Opo's choice of the gentle Jill Baker for the rides which she 
gave this thirteen-year-old, suggests not only a sensitive discrimi- 
nation of the qualities of human beings, but also that the reports 
of similar incidents which have come down to us from antiquity 
were based on similarly observed events. The one element in 
these stories which seemed most difficult to accept, and which is 
so often represented in ancient art, the boy riding on the back of 
a dolphin, is now removed from the realm of fancy and placed 
squarely in the realm of fact. It has been corroborated and sus- 

Mr. Antony Alpers in his book on the dolphin, and especially 
that part devoted to the eyewitness accounts of Opo's behavior, 
goes far toward establishing the fact of the dolphin's remarkable 
capacity for rapport with human beings. But for those striking 
facts I must recommend you to Mr. Alper's charming book. 

The dolphin's extraordinary interest in and, what we will I 
am sure not be far wrong in interpreting as, concern for human 
beings, is dramatically told by George Llano in his report Air- 
men Against the Sea. This report, written on survival at sea dur- 
ing the Second World War, records the experience of six Ameri- 
can airmen, shot down over the Pacific, who found themselves 
in a seven-man raft being pushed by a porpoise toward land. Un- 
fortunately the land was an island held by the Japanese. The 
friendly porpoise must have been surprised and hurt when he 
found himself being dissuaded from his pushing by being beaten 
of? with the oars of the airmen. 

Dr. Llano also reports that "Most observers noted that when 


porpoises appeared sharks disappeared, and they frequently re- 
fer to the 'welcome' appearance of porpoises, whose company 
they preferred to that of sharks." This confirms all earlier reports 
that sharks are no match for the dolphin kind. 

Dolphins have been known to push a mattress quite empty 
of human beings for considerable distances at sea. Possibly it is 
merely the pushing that interests them, and not the saving of 
any human beings that might be atop of them. 

Is there any evidence that dolphins save drowning swimmers ? 
There is. 

In 1945 the wife of a well-known trial attorney residing in 
Florida was saved from drowning by a dolphin.' This woman 
had stepped into a sea with a strong undertow and was immedi- 
ately dragged under. Just before losing consciousness, she re- 
members hoping that someone would push her ashore. "With 
that, someone gave me a tremendous shove, and I landed on 
the beach, face down, too exhausted to turn over . . . when I did, 
no one was near, but in the water almost eighteen feet out a por- 
poise was leaping around, and a few feet beyond him another 
large fish was also leaping." 

In this case the porpoise was almost certainly a dolphin and 
the large fish a fishtail shark. A man who had observed the 
events from the other side of a fence told the rescued woman 
that this was the second time he had seen a drowning person 
saved by a "porpoise." 

More recently, on the night of February 29, i960, Mrs. Yvonne 
M. Bliss of Stuart fell from a boat off the east coast of Grand 
Bahama Island in the West Indies.' "After floating, swimming, 
shedding more clothing for what seemed an eternity, I saw a 
form in the water to the left of me. ... It touched the side of 
my hip and, thinking it must be a shark, I moved over to the 
right to try to get away from it This change in my position 

^ "Saved by a Porpoise," Nattiral History, LVIII (1949), 385-386. 

* Winthrop N. Kellogg, Porpoises and Sonar, University of Chicago Press, 1962, p. 14. 


was to my advantage as heretofore I was bucking a cross tide 
and the waves would wash over my head and I would swallow 
a great deal of water. This sea animal which I knew by this time 
must be a porpoise had guided me so that I was being carried 
with the tide. 

"After another eternity and being thankful that my friend 
was keeping away the sharks and barracuda for which these 
waters are famous, the porpoise moved back of me and came 
around to my right side. I moved over to give room to my com- 
panion and later knew that had not the porpoise done this, I 
would have been going downstream to deeper and faster mov- 
ing waters. The porpoise had guided me to the section where 
the water was the most shallow. 

"Shortly I touched what felt hke fish netting to my feet. It 
was seaweed and under that the glorious and most welcome 

"As I turned toward shore, stumbling, losing balance, and 
saying a prayer of thanks, my rescuer took off like a streak on 
down the channel." 

The reader must be left to make what he can of such occur- 
rences. Dr. George G. Goodwin of the American Museum of 
Natural History doubts the intention of dolphins to save drown- 
ing persons.' "Anything floating," he writes, "on or near the 
surface of the sea will attract his attention. His first action on 
approaching the object of his curiosity is to roll under it. In 
doing so, something partly submerged, like the body of a drown- 
ing person, is nudged to the surface of the water. The sea does 
its part and automatically drives floating objects toward the 
beach." This may well be so in some cases, but it is an explana- 
tion which does not fit the incidents described by Mrs. Bhss, in 
which she was not pushed but guided. Occam's razor should 
not be too bluntly applied. 

^George G. Goodwin, "Porpoise — Friend of Man?" Natural History, LVI (1947), 

The cooperativeness of dolphins with fishermen in various 
parts of the world has gone on for several thousand years with- 
out its significance having registered much upon the conscious- 
ness of the rest of the world — including the learned and the 

In the Mediterranean from the earliest days, as recorded by 
Aelian in his On the Characteristics of Animals, VI, 15, to the 
present day, torchlight fishing with the aid of dolphins has been 
a traditional way of fishing. This has been described by Nicholas 
Apostolides in his book La Peche en Grece, who tells how fisher- 
men of the Sporades catch their garfish "in the darkest nights of 
the month of October" by methods very similar to those de- 
scribed by Aelian. Briefly, the fish attracted by the fishermen's 
flares begin to collect, whereupon the dolphins appear and drive 
them into the fishermen's nets. 

Similar methods of fishing were practiced in the Antipodes, 
off the New Zealand and Queensland coasts. The aborigines of 
Moreton Bay, Queensland, used to catch mullet with the aid of 
dolphins, at a place appropriately enough called Amity Point. 
The aborigines recognized individual dolphins and called them 
by name. With their nets ready on the beach the aborigines 
waited for a shoal of fish to appear, whereupon they would run 
down and make a peculiar splashing in the water with their 
spears, and the dolphins on the outside of the shoal would drive 
the fish towards the nets for the aborigines to catch. Fairholme, 
who described these events in 1856, writes, "For my part I can- 
not doubt that the understanding is real, and that the natives 
know these porpoises [actually the dolphin Tursiops catalania], 
and that strange porpoises would not show so little fear of the 
natives. The oldest men of the tribe say that the same kind of 
fishing has always been carried on as long as they can remember. 
Porpoises abound in the bay, but in no other part do the natives 
fish with their assistance." 

The Irrawaddy River dolphin is also an assistant-fisherman. 


John Anderson reports that "The fishermen beheve that the dol- 
phin purposely draws fish to their nets, and each fishing village 
has its particular guardian dolphin which receives a name com- 
mon to all the fellows of his school; and it is this superstition 
which makes it so difficult to obtain specimens of this Cetacean. 
Colonel Sladen has told me that suits are not infrequently 
brought into the native courts to recover a share in the capture 
of fish, in which a plaintiff's dolphin has been held to fill the nets 
of rival fishermen." (John Anderson, Account of the Zoological 
Results of Two Expeditions to Western Yunnan.) 

The Pink-Bellied river dolphin {hiia geoffrensis) of the Trap- 
ajos, a tributary of the Amazon, also helps its human friends with 
fishing. Dr. F. Bruce LamK says that this dolphin, locally known 
as the boto, "is reported to have saved the lives of helpless persons 
whose boats have capsized, by pushing them ashore. None of 
the dreaded flesh-eating piranhas appear when a porpoise is 
present, for they themselves would be eaten." And he goes on 
to give an eye-witness account of fishing with the aid of a trained 
dolphin. "My curiosity was aroused," he writes, "by the paddler, 
who began tapping on the side of the canoe with his paddle 
between strokes and whistling a peculiar call. Asking Rymundo 
about this, he startled me by casually remarking diat they were 
calling their boto, their porpoise As we approached the fish- 
ing grounds near the riverbank, Rymundo lit his carbide miner's 
lamp, adjusted the reflector, chose his first harpoon, and stood up 
in the bow ready for action. Almost immediately on the offshore 
side of the canoe about 50 feet from us we heard a porpoise come 
up to blow and take in fresh air." The porpoise then chased the 
fish toward the canoe and Rymundo harpooned them with ease. 

Many ancient writers have referred to the brilliancy of the 
changeful colors when the dolphin is dying. Byron makes refer- 
ence to this in "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage," 

"F. Bruce Lamb, "The Fisherman's Porpoise," Natural History, LXIII (1954), 231-2. 


"Parting day 
Dies like tlie dolpiiin, whom each pang imbues 
With a new colour as it gasps away; 
The last still loveliest, till 'tis gone, and 

all is gray." 

Here is a peculiar confusion, for this is not the mammaHan 
dolphin of which we have been speaking, but the swift piscivor- 
ous oceanic fish Coryphaena hippurus, the dolphin of sailors. It 
is blue with deeper spots, and gleaming with gold. It is, indeed, 
famous for the beauty of its changing colors when dying. The 
mammalian dolphin exhibits no such spectacular color changes 
when dying. 

Happily, it is not with dying dolphins or with their changing 
colors that we are concerned here, but rather with ours, the 
changing color of the complexion of our once too sophisticated 
beliefs. Beliefs which, in their own way, were very much more 
in the nature of myths than the ancient ones which we wrote 
off a little too disdainfully as such. The history of the dolphin 
constitutes an illuminating example of the eclipse of knowledge 
once possessed by the learned, but which was virtually com- 
pletely relegated to the outermost fringes of mythology during 
the last eighteen hundred years. Perhaps there is a moral to be 
drawn here. If so, I shall leave it to others to draw. But now 
that scientific interest in the dolphin has been aroused we are 
entering into a new era of delphinology, and wdth the confirma- 
tion of so many of the observations of the ancients already made, 
we may look forward with confidence to others. Dolphins have 
large brains; possibly they will some day be able to teach us 
what brains are really for. 


Appendix A 

A Note for Bibliophiles 

It was an ancient belief, as Camerarius tells us, that "when tempests 
arise, and seamen cast their anchor, the dolphin, from its love to man, 
twines itself round it, so that it may more safely lay hold of the 
ground." I know of no verifying evidence for this statement, but 
should not be surprised to find some element of truth in it. The 
dolphin twined about an anchor is the device which Aldus Manutius 
(1450-15 1 5) adopted for his Aldine Press, which began pubUcation 
in 1494. This device was later adapted to his own use by the English 
publisher William Pickering (1796-1854). 

The representation of the dolphin twined about the anchor refers 
to no maritime supremacy of that creature, but rather to its kindly 
regard for man. The following poem in George Wither's A Collec- 
tion of Emblemes (1635), throws some additional light on the mean- 
ing of the emblem. 

If Safely, thou desire to goe. 
Bee nor too Swift, nor overslow. 
[Dolphin and Anchor] 
Illvstr. X. Book 2. 

Our Elders, when their meaning was to shew 
A native-speedinesse (in Emblem wise) 
The picture of a Dolphin-Fish they drew; 

Which, through the waters, with great swiftnesse, flies. 

An Anchor, they did figure, to declare 

Hope, stayednesse, or a grave-deliberation : 

And therefore when those two, united are. 

Its giveth us a two-fold Intimation. 

For, as the Dolphin putteth us in minde. 

That in the Courses, which we have to make, 


Wee should not be, to slothfulnesse enclin'd; 

But, swift to follow what we undertake: 

So, by an Anchor added thereunto, 

Inform'd wee are, that, to maintaine our speed, 

Hope, must bee joyn'd therewith (in all we doe) 

If wee will undiscouraged proceed. 

It sheweth (also) that, our speedinesse, 

Must have some staydnesse; lest, when wee suppose 

To prosecute our aymes with good successe. 

Wee may, by Rashnesse, good endeavors lose. 

They worke, with most securitie, that know 
The Times, and best Occasions of delay; 
When, likewise, to be neither swift, nor slow; 
And, when to practise all the speed, they may. 
For, whether calme, or stormie-passages, 
(Through this life's Ocean) shall their Bark attend; 
This double Vertue, will procure their ease: 
And, them, in all necessities, befriend. 

By Speedinesse, our works are timely wrought; 

By Staydnesse, they, to passe are, safely, brought. 

From A Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne, 
by George Wither. London, 1635. Book 2, p. 72. 


Appendix B 

Dolphins and Their Distribution 

Family: Delphinidae 
Subfamily: Delphininae 
Genus: Delphintis 
Subfamily : Delphinapterinae 
Genus : Monodon 
Genus: Delphinapterus 

The Suborder Odontoceti of the Order Cetacea consists of the 
toothed whales, in contrast to the toothless whalebone or baleen 
whales, the Mystacoceti. The whales are large dolphins or one may 
say that dolphins are small whales. The members of the Odontoceti 
are the Dolphin, Freshwater Dolphin, Porpoise, Sperm Whale or 
Cachalot, Lesser Sperm Whale, Bottle-Nose Whale, Narwhal or 
Sea-Unicorn, White Whale, Pilot Whale or Black-Fish, Killer Whale 
or Grampus. 

Delphinus delphis: The Common Dolphin. It is easily recognized 
by its well-defined narrow beak and distinctive coloration, being 
darker above than below. There is a narrow beak, which is sharply 
marked off from the low recHning forehead by a V-shaped groove. A 
length of up to 8/4 feet has been recorded. Range of distribution is 
very wide. May be met in any temperate or warm sea throughout 
the world, and occurs at times in vast schools. 

Delphinus roseiventris: The Red-Bellied Dolphin. Moluccas and 
Torres Straits, Australia; 3 feet 10 inches. 

Prodelphinus attenuatus: Tropical and sub-tropical parts of Atlan- 
tic Ocean; 6 feet. 

P. plagiodon: Atlantic coast of North America from Cape Hat- 
teras, Gulf of Mexico; 7 feet. 


p. jroenatus: The Bridled Dolphin. Atlantic and Indian Oceans; 
about 6 feet. 

P. malayanus: East Indies; more than 6 feet. 

P. coeruleoalbus: South America, near mouth of River Plate; about 
4 feet. 

P. euphrosyne: Atlantic Ocean to South Africa; about 8 feet. 
Genus Tursiops 

T. truncatus: The Bottle-Nosed Dolphin. Has a short well-defined 
snout 2 or 3 inches long. There is a prominent fin in the middle of 
the back. Reaches a length of ii to 12 feet. Has a very wide range. 
Commonest along the Atlantic coast of America from Maine to 
Florida. Found in Bay of Biscay, in the Mediterranean Sea, and in 
New Zealand waters. 

T. ahusalam : Red Sea; 6 feet. 

T. catalania: Indian and Australian seas. 
Genus Steno 

S. rostratus: The Rough-Toothed Dolphin. Long-beaked, wdth 
roughened or furrowed teeth. Atlantic and Indian Oceans; about 8 

Genus Orcaella 

O. brevirostris: Irrawaddy River Dolphin. From Bay of Bengal, 
Vizagapatam, Singapore, and Siam (i.e., S.E. Asia). 
Genus Lissodelphis or Tursio 

Lissodelphis: The Right Whale Dolphin. All oceans. 
Genus Grampus 

G. griseus: Risso's Dolphin. North Atlantic, Mediterranean, New 
Zealand, and Cape of Good Hope; 12 to 13 feet. 
Genus Cephalorhynchus 

These are the Southern, mostly cold-water dolphins. 

C. heavisidei: Heaviside's Dolphin. Cape of Good Hope; about 4 

C. hectori: Hector's Dolphin. New Zealand; about 6 feet. 

C. albiventris: White-Bellied Dolphin. A very rare form, found off 
the coast of South America; about 4 feet 6 inches. 

C commersonii: Commerson's Dolphin; also known as the Piebald 
Porpoise or Le Jacobite. Southern oceans; up to 5V4 feet. 


Genus Lagenorhynchus 

Characterized by great number of vertebrae (80 to 90), great length 
o£ transverse and vertical bony processes from vertebrae, moderately 
pointed high back fin having concave posterior border; the beak is 

L. acutiis: The White-Sided Dolphin. North Atlantic; about 9 

L. aitstralis: Peale's Porpoise. Cape Horn, Chile, Patagonia, Falk- 
land Islands; over 7 feet. 

L. albirostris: The White-Beaked Dolphin, North Atlantic; 9 to 10 

L. cruciger: South Pacific; 5 to 6 feet. 

L. fitzroyi: Fitzroy's Dolphin. Southern end of South America; 5 
feet 4 inches. 

L. obscitrus: Dusky Dolphin. South Africa, New Zealand, Falk- 
land Islands; 7 feet. 

Genus Sotalia 

Concentrated in the tropical seas or rivers of South America, Africa, 
India, and the Far East. 

S. pallida: Buffeo bianco. Upper Amazon; 5 feet 6 inches. 

S. fluviatalis: Buffeo negro. Upper Amazon; 3 feet 7 inches. 

S. tucuxi: Upper Amazon. 

S. guianensis: N. E. coast of South America. 

S. teuszii: Noteworthy as being the one Cetacean believed to feed 
exclusively on vegetable matter. Kamerun River. 

S. gadamn: Vizagapatam; averages 7 feet; snout 6 inches. 

S. lentiginosa: Vizagapatam. 

S. plmnbea: Malabar coast of India; about 8 feet; very long snout. 

S. borneensis: Gulf of Siam to Sarawak in Borneo. 

S. sinensis: Chinese White Dolphin. 

The Fresh Water Dolphins. 

Genus Platanista 
P. gangetica: The Susu or Gangetic Dolphin; about 8 feet; snout 
and beak drawn into long forceps-like beak, 7 or 8 inches long; con- 
fined to River Ganges and River Indus. It is almost blind. 


Genus 7/2 /a 
7. geoffrensis: Amazonian Dolphin or Boutu. Upper Amazon; 7 
feet; long beak. 

Genus Pontoporia 
P. blainvillei: La Plata Dolphin. Estuary of Rio de la Plata; about 
5 feet. 

Genus Lipotes 
L. vexillifer: Chinese River Dolphin. Ting Ling Lake, 600 miles 
up the Yang-tse River; 7 feet 6 inches; slightly upcurved jaws. 

The Porpoise 

The small beakless Delphinidae, which have a triangular dorsal 
fin and spade-shaped teeth, black above and white below; travels in 
large schools. The word "porpoise" is derived from the French porc- 
poisson, "pig-fish." Never larger than 6 feet. 
Genus Phocaena 

P. phocaena: The Common Porpoise. Chiefly North Atlantic and 
North Pacific; never larger than 6 feet. 

P. spinipinnis: Burmeister's Porpoise. Rare. La Plata round Horn 
to Peru. 

P. dalli: Dall's Harbor Porpoise. Very rare. Alaska; less than 5 

P. truei: True's Porpoise. Japan; less than 5 feet. 

P. dioprica: River Plate to South Georgia. 
Genus Neomeris 

N. phocaenoides: Finless Black Porpoise. Cape of Good Hope to 

Genus Lissodelphis 

L. peronii: New Zealand and Tasmania; about 6 feet. 

L. brealis: North Pacific; about 8 feet. 

The Right Whale Dolphins 

The Whales with Teeth 

The toothed whales are big dolphins, and are on the average much 
smaller than the Whalebone or Baleen toothless Whales. 

Family Physeteridae 

Subfamily Physeterinae 


Genus Physeter 

P. catodon : The Sperm Whale or Cachalot. All oceans. Male may 
reach 60 feet, the female usually half the length of the male. This is 
the whale that has suffered the relentless persecution of whalers, 
always a coveted prize on account of its spermaceti-permeated blub- 
ber, and its excretory ambergris. The most dangerous of whales. 

Subfamily Kogiinae 
Genus Kogia 

K. breviceps: The Pigmy or Lesser Sperm Whale. Atlantic, Pa- 
cific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans; about 10 feet. 

Family Ziphiidae 

Genus: Hyperoodon rostratus: The Bottle-Nose Whale. North 
Atlantic, Mediterranean, South Pacific, and Antarctic; 20 to 30 feet. 

Genus: Mesoplodon: "The Cow Fish;" Atlantic, Pacific, and In- 
dian oceans. 

Genus : Ziphiiis: The Two-Toothed Whale. All oceans. 

Genus: Tasmacetus: South Pacific. 

Genus: Berardius: Pacific. 

Family Monodontidae or Delphinapteridae 

Subfamily Delphinapterinae 

Genus: Monodon monocerus: Narwhal or Sea Unicorn. Arctic 
seas south of the ice-field. The male is characterized by an immense 
tusk, sometimes 9 feet long, projecting like a spear from the left 
side of the bluntly-rounded muzzle. The tusk is spirally grooved, and 
is the source of the horn of the unicorn of heraldry. Mottled in color, 
and about 18 feet long. 

Genus: Delphinapterus leucas: The White Whale or Beluga. Re- 
sembles the Narwhal in size, shape, and habitat, but the tusk is 

Family Delphinidae 
Genus Globiocephala 

G. melas: Pilot Whale or Black-Fish or Ca'ing Whale. Temperate 
or tropical seas. Rounded head with dorsal fin. Takes its name from 
the fact that one whale or pilot leads the way of the sometimes huge 
schools; about 25 feet. 


Genus Orcintis 

O. orca: Killer Whale or Grampus. All seas. With a high dorsal 
fin and black and white coloring, aggressively bold and carnivorous, 
with singular cunning and intelligence. Fourteen seals and thirteen 
porpoises have been found in the stomach of a male measuring 21 
feet. The male is usually about 30 feet in length. 

Genus Pseudorca 

P. crassidens: The False Killer Whale or Lesser Killer Whale. All 


Aelian. On the Characteristics of Animals. Bk. VI, 15. 

Aesop. Fables. "The Monkey and the Dolphin." 

Alpers, Antony. Dolphins: the Myth and the Mammal. Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1961. 

Anderson, John. Anatomical and Zoological Researches: Comprising 
an Account of the Zoological Results of the Two Expeditions to 
Western Yunnan. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1878. 

Apollodorus. The Library. Ill, 5, 3. 

Apostolides, Nicholas. La Peche en Grece. Athens, 1907. 

Aristotle. History of Animals. Bk. I, 5; II, i, 13, 15; III, i, 7, 20; IV, 
8-10; V, 5; VI, 12; VIII, 2, 13; IX, 48. 

Biedermann, Paul. Der Delphin in der dichtenden iind bildenden 
Phantasie der Griechen iind Roemer. Halle, 1881. 

Cook, Arthur B. Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion. Cambridge, 
Eng.': The University Press, 1914, vol. i, p. 662. 

Douglas, Norman. Birds and Beasts of the Gree\ Anthology. Lon- 
don : Chapman and Hall, 1928, p. 161. 

Euhemerus. Sacred History. 

Fairholme, J. K. E. "The Blacks of Moreton Bay, and the Porpoises," 
Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, XXIV (1856), 

Goodwin, George G. "Porpoise — Friend of Man?" Natural History, 

LVI (1947), 337. 

The Gree\ Anthology. 

Herodotos. History. Clio I, 23-24. 


Hill, Ralph N. Window in the Sea. New York: Rinehart, 1956. 
Kellogg, Winthrop N, Porpoises and Sonar. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press, 1961. 
Klement, Carl. Arion. Vienna, 1898. 
Lamb, F. Bruce. "The Fisherman's Porpoise," Natural History, 

LXIII (1954), 231-232. 
Llano, George A. Airmen Against the Sea. Maxwell Air Force Base, 

Alabama; Arctic, Desert, Tropic Information Center [1955 or 

1956], p. 74. 
Longman, Heber. "New Records of Cetacea," Memoirs of the 

Queensland Museum, VIII (1926), 266-278. 
Longus, Cornificius. De Etymis Deorum. 
Lucian. Marine Dialogues. 8. 
Lycophron. Alexandra. 

Nonnus Panopolitanus. Dionysiaca. VI, 265-266. 
Norman, John R., and Fraser, F. C. Giant Fishes, Whales, and 

Dolphins. London: Putnam, 1937. 
Oppian. Halieutica. I, 649-654, 1089; V, 422, 519^ 
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Ill, i, 202. 
Pliny the Elder. Natural History. IX, 8, 24-28. 
Pliny the Younger. Letters. IX, 23. 
Plutarch. On the Cleverness of Animals. 
Porphyry. De Abstinentia. Ill, 16. 
Rabinovitch, Melitta. Der Delphin in Sage und Mythos der Griechen. 

Dornach: Hybernia-Verlag, 1947. 
"Saved by a Porpoise," Natural History, LVIII (1949), 385-386. 
Schmidt, Bernhard. Das Volf{sleben der Neugriechen. Leipzig, 1871. 
Servius. Commentarii in Vergilii Aeneidos. Ill, 332. 
Stebbins, Eunice B. The Dolphin in the Literature and Art of Greece 

and Rome. Menasha, Wisconsin : Banta Publishing Co., 1929. 
Usener, Hermann. Die Sintfluthsagen. Bonn: F. Cohen, 1899. 
Xenophon. Anabasis. V, 4, 28. 

Modern Whales^ Dolphins^ 
and Porpoises^ as Challenges 
to Our Intelligence 



JLhe intelligence of whales has been the subject 
of speculation by writers since Ancient Greece/ ' The discovery 
of the large brains of the Cetacea in the eighteenth century led 
to inevitable comparisons of these brains to those of the humans 
and of the lower primates. The winds of scholarly opinions 
concerning the whales have anciently blown strongly for high 
inteUigence but during later centuries shifted strongly against 
high intelligence. At the time of Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) the 
dolphin, for example, was held in high esteem, and many stories 
of the apparently great abilities of these animals were current.'' 
By the time of Plinius Secundus (A.D. 23-79) the beginning of 
a note of skepticism was introduced. Plinius said, "I should be 
ashamed to tell the story were it not that it has been written 
about by . . . others.'" 

In the middle ages the strong influence of religious philosophy 
on thinking placed Man in a completely separate compartment 
from all other living creatures, and the accurate anatomy of the 


whales was neglected. This point is illustrated by Figure i, pub- 
lished in the 1500's in Historia Animalium by Konrad Gesner. 
This was apparently a baleen whale. It has two tubes which ap- 
parently symbolize the double blowhole of the Mystacocetae. 
There is no modern whale known that has such tubes sticking 
out of the top of his head. There is a huge eye above the angle 
of the jaw. All whales have the eye at or near the posterior angle 
of the jaw. The eye is very much smaller than the one shown 
here. A print published in 1598 of the anatomy of these animals 
is shown in Figure 2. The drawing of the male organ is accurate 
(apparently it was measured with a walking stick), but the eye 
is too large and is misplaced. 

These pictures illustrate very well man's most common rela- 
tionship to the whale, which has continued to the present day. 
For commercial reasons man continues to exploit these creatures' 

It was not until the anatomical work of Vesalius and others 
that the biological similarities and differences of man and other 
mammals were pointed out. It was at this time that the investi- 
gation of man's large and complex brain began. 

All through these periods intelligence and the biological brain 
factors seemed to be completely separated in the minds of the 
scholars. At the times of the Greeks and the Romans there was 
little, if any, link made between brain and mind. Scholars at- 
tributed man's special achievements to other factors than excel- 
lence of brain structure and its use. 

After the discovery of man's complicated and complex brain 
and the clinical correlation between brain injury and effects on 
man's performance, the brain and mental factors began to be 
related to one another. As descriptions of man's brain became 
more and more exact and clinical correlations increased suffi- 
ciently in numbers, new investigations on the relationships be- 
tween brain size and intelligence in Homo sapiens were started. 
The early work is summarized by Donaldson.' 


In the late 1700's and the early 1800's the expansion of the 
whahng industry offered many opportunities for examination 
of these interesting mammals. Figures 3 and 4 are dramatic ex- 
amples of the state of the industry in the late eighteenth and 
early nineteenth centuries. 

One of the earliest drawings of the complex brain of one of 
the cetacea is that of Gottfried Reinhold Trediramus in 1818 
(Fig. 5). This is an anterior view of the brain of the common 
porpoise Phocaena phocaena. This is one of the earliest pictures 
showing the complexity of the fissuration and the large numbers 
of gyri and sulci. 

By the year 1843 the size of the brain of whales was being re- 
lated to the total size of the body. The very large brains of the 
large whales were reduced in importance by considering their 
weight in a ratio to the weight of the total body. This type of 
reasoning was culminated with a long series of quantitative 
measures published by Eugene Dubois {Bulletins de la SocietS 
d' Anthropologic de Paris, Ser. 4, VIII [1897], 337-376). 

Descriptions from those of Hunter and Tyson onwards agree 
that, in absolute size, the brains are as large and larger than 
those of man. All were agreed that the smaller whales, i.e., the 
dolphins and porpoises, have very large brains with relation to 
their body size. It was argued, therefore, with respect to the 
dolphin, "this creature is of more than ordinary wit and ca- 
pacity." (Robert Hamilton, The Natural History of the Ordi- 
nary Cetacea or Whales, p. 66, in Sir William Jardine, The 
Naturalist's Library, volume 7, Edinburgh, 1843.) 

Tiedemann's drawings of the brain of Delphinus del phis and 
of Delphinus phocaena were published by H. G. L. Reichenbach 
in his Anatomia Mammalium in 1845. The four drawings are 
shown in Figure 6. These drawings show the improved aware- 
ness of the complexities of these large brains in regard to cere- 
bral cortex, the cerebellum, and the cranial nerves. Correlations 
between the structure of this brain and the behavior of the 


animal possessing it, were (and are) woefully lacking. The only 
behavioral accounts were those of whalers hunting these 
animals. Hunters tend to concentrate on the offensive and de- 
fensive maneuvers of the animal, and can give useful informa- 
tion for other kinds of evaluation of the animal's behavior and 
presumed intelligence. 

In 1787 John Hunter, writing in the Philosophical Transac- 
tioi7s of the Royal Society of London (LXXVII, 423-424), said 
the following: "The size of the Brain differs much in different 
genera of this tribe, and likewise in the proportion it bears to the 
bulk of the animal. In the Porpoise, I believe, it [the proportion] 
is largest, and perhaps in that respect comes nearest to the hu- 
man . . . 

"The brain is composed of cortical and medullary substances, 
very distinctly marked; the cortical being, in colour, like the 
tubular substance of a kidney; the medullary, very white. These 
substances are nearly in the same proportion as in the human 
brain . . .The thalami themselves are large; the corpora striata 
small ; the crura of the fornix are continued along the windings 
of the ventricles, much as in the human subject." 

Flatau and Jacobsohn in 1899 wrote, "the large brain of the 
Porpoise is one of the smallest in the Cetacean Order in which 
the organ attains to a much greater absolute size than any 

In 1902 G. Elliot Smith wrote of the brain of a species of 
dolphin called "Delphinus tursio" (which may be the modern 
Tursiops truncatus) : "This brain is larger and correspondingly 
richer in sulci than that of the porpoise: but the structure of the 
two organs is essentially the same." His drawings are shown in 
Figures 7 and 8. He said further, "the brains of the Beluga and 
all the dolphins closely resemble that of the porpoise." 

Smith summarizes the discussion of the huge size of the 
whale's brain. "The apparently extraordinary dimensions of the 
whale's brain cannot therefore be considered unusual phe- 


nomena, because this enormous extent of the cerebral cortex to 
receive and 'store' impressions of such vast sensory surfaces be- 
comes a condition of survival of the animal. 

"The marvelous complexity of the surface of the cerebrum is 
the direct result of its great size. In order, apparently, that the 
cerebral cortex may be efficiently nourished and at the same time 
be spared to as great a degree as possible the risk of vascular dis- 
turbances [such as would be produced by large vessels passing 
into it], its thickness does not appreciably increase in large 
animals. [He then quotes Dubois' figures showing that the 
whale's cortex is the same thickness as that of the human.] Such 
being the case, it naturally results that the increased bulk of cor- 
tex in large animals can only be packed by becoming thrown 
into increasing number of folds, separated by corresponding 
large number of sulci."* 

In regard to communication between individual whales, 
Scammon in 1874 wrote the following: "It is said that the Cacha- 
lots [Sperm Whales] are endowed with the faculty of communi- 
cating with each other in times of danger, when miles . . . distant. 
If this be true, the mode of communication rests instinctively 
within their own contracted brains.'" Let us not forget that 
Scammon was talking about the mammal with the largest 
known brain on this planet. Instinct as the sole cause of com- 
munication with a brain this size seems rather improbable. This 
brain is not any longer considered "contracted." Both of these 
statements illustrate an authoritative view of that time. If one 
peruses the paper by Tokuzo Kojima, "On the Brain of the 
Sperm Whale" (in the Scientific Reports of the Whales Re- 
search Institute, Tokyo, VI, 1951, 49-72), one can obtain a 
modern clear view of this brain. The largest one that he ob- 
tained (from a 49-foot sperm whale) was 9,200 grams. The 
average weight of the sixteen brains presented in his paper is 
7,800 grams for average body lengths of 50 feet. (The brain 
weight per foot of body length varied from 118 to 187 grams 


per foot, averaging 157; man's ratio averages about 250 grams 
per foot.) 

In the literature of the time of Scammon, the scholars failed to 
give us new information about the behavior of cetacea. There 
seems to have been a distinctly ambivalent attitude towards these 
animals which is continued today. This point of view can be 
summarized as follows: the whale is a very large animal with a 
brain larger than that of man. This brain is the result of the 
huge growth of its body. All of this large brain is needed to 
control a large body. Because these tasks are so demanding, 
there is not enough brain substance left for a high degree of 
intelligence to develop. Thus the large brain cannot give the 
degree of intellectual capability that man has. 

As an example of man's attitudes to cetaceans, consider the 
case of the U. S. Fisheries Bureau Economic Circular No. 38, 
of November 6, 191 8, by Lewis Radcliffe, entitled "Whales and 
Porpoises as Food." Roy Chapman Andrews is quoted as saying 
that hump-backed whale meat is the best of the larger cetaceans 
but that porpoise and dolphin meat is even better eating than 
that of the larger whale. The composition of die whale meat is 
given as 30% protein, 6% fat, and less than 2% ash. From a 
hump-back whale one obtains six tons of meat, from a Sei Whale, 
five tons, and from a Finback, eight tons. Directions are given 
to remove the connective tissue between the blubber and the 
muscle to avoid the oily taste. For those who are interested, the 
paper includes twenty-two whale meat recipes and ten porpoise 
meat recipes. 

It can well be imagined, if we ever do communicate with 
whales, dolphins, or porpoises, the kind of reception that this 
sort of literature will receive from the cetaceans. 

The limited point of view of the whales as "dumb beasts" 
neglects the adaptations that have taken place in non-mam- 
malian forms with very much smaller brains but with compara- 
ble bulk of body. The 60-foot whale shark, a plankton eater, 


and like the rest of the sharks a water-breather, has a bulk of 
body comparable to that of the larger whales. It has a large 
brain cavity but a very small brain in a small part of this large 
cavity. (It is very difficult to find the weight of these brains to 
compare with that of the cetacea and other mammals.) The 
problem of brain weight versus body weight versus intelligence 
is most clearly expressed by Gerhardt von Bonin in his paper in 
the Journal of General Psychology (1937).' He gives a very ex- 
tensive table for mammals, their brain weight, their body 
weight, and the values of 2 parameters for their specification. 
He then states, "it is clear from all that has been said above that 
the figures given here are nothing but a description of facts, a 
description which, in the mathematical sense of the term, is the 
'best' one. It does not pretend to make any enunciation about 
the relation of intelligence and brain weight. For that purpose 
we need a much broader psychological basis than we have at 

"Former attempts to analyze the relations between body 
weight and brain weight suffer from three deficits: (i) they 
presuppose a correlation between intelligence and brain weight, 
(2) they make suppositions about the intelligence of animals 
which are unproven, and (3) they are based on a conception of 
cortical function which can no longer be considered valid . . . 
There is a close correlation between the logarithms of brain and 
body weight, and this co-relation is linear. Brain weight in- 
creases as the 0.655th power of body weight. The value of the 
cephalization co-efficient k differs from species to species. 
Whether or not this is an indicatio7i of the intelligence of 
animals must he left to the psychologists to answer." 

One of the problems that the whales have, as compared to, 
say, the large shark, is breathing air while living in the sea. This 
requires that these animals reach the air-water interface rela- 
tively frequently — at least every one hour and a half for the 
bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon), three-quarters of an hour for 


the Sperm Whale {Physeter catadon), and every six minutes for 
Tur slops truncatus. This puts very stringent requirements on the 
relationship of the whales to other events within the sea. Each 
whale must know where the surface of the sea is at each instant 
and compute his future actions so that when he does run out of 
air he is near the surface. He is essentially a surface-to-depth and 
depth-to-surface oriented animal. He must travel at high speed 
at times in order to recapture enough air to continue whatever 
he is doing under the surface. This means that he must calcu- 
late his chances of obtaining a good breath of air during rain 
storms and similar situations. He can be violently thrown 
around at the surface unless he comes up in the trough rather 
than at the crest of the wave. Such calculations probably require 
an exercise of something more than just "instinct." 

Water-breathing animals, on the other hand, have no need for 
such calculations. If the surface gets rough, they move down- 
ward and stay there. The required maneuvers are very much 
simpler and the amount of computation is very much less. 

This requirement for die whales implies that the information 
coming from every one of the senses, not just the skin, needs to 
be correlated very rapidly and in complex patterning to allow 
the animals to predict their future course safely and accurately. 
It also requires the use of large amounts of information from 

The predators of the sea, other than the whales themselves, 
make life in the sea rather a complex business for mammals. The 
very large sharks can and do attack whales, dolphins, and por- 
poises. At times such attacks are by overwhelming numbers of 
sharks on a relatively small number of dolphins. All of the older 
animals in our experience have at least one shark bite on them — 
the younger animals are protected by the older ones and most of 
them are not so dramatically scarred. 

The whales, in turn, must track their own prey in order to 
obtain food. With the single known exception of Orca, none of 


their predators are air-breathers. In general, the whales' diet 
consists of fish, squid, or other water-breathing organisms of the 

A scientific assessment of the position of these animals in the 
competitive environment of the sea is not yet fully evaluated 
quantitatively. Any pronouncement of the requirements in re- 
gard to new complex adaptations to new complicated situations 
and hence the evaluation of intelligence of these animals at this 
time is premature and presumptuous. The whole issue of the 
meaning and the use of these large brains is still very much un- 
known. As I say in Ma?i and Dolphin^ I am espousing a plea 
for an open-minded attitude with respect to these animals. It 
would be presumptuous to assume that we at the present time 
can know how to measure their intelligence or their intellectual 
capacity. The usual behavioral criteria used in evaluation of in- 
telligence of other animals are obviously inapplicable to a mam- 
mal living in the sea. As McBride and Hebb* so clearly stated, 
they cannot place the dolphin in any sort of intellectual com- 
parative intelligence scale; they did not know the appropriate 
experimental questions to ask in order to compare the dolphins 
with the chimpanzees, for example. Comparing a handed- 
mammal with a flippered-mammal, each of which lives in an 
entirely separate and distinctive environment, is a very difficult 
intellectual task even for Homo sapiens. 

In pursuing possible measures of intellectual and intelligent 
capacity, what line should one pursue ? I explored this question 
somewhat in Man and Dolphin, but wish to summarize and ex- 
tend it here in this discussion. The invariants that we are seek- 
ing somehow do not seem to be as concrete as "tool-making and 
tool-using ability" by means of the hands which has been one of 
the major alleged criteria for human adaptation and success. 
The chimpanzee and the gorilla have the hands but they do 
not have the brains to back up the use of the hands. Man has 
both the hands and the brain. Thus we can quite simply and 


concretely contrast the performance of the large brains of man 
with his hands to the smaller brains of the primates with their 
hands. When we consider the whales, we seem obsessed, as it 
were, with the necessity of our own nature to look for an analog 
of the hand and the manipulative ability. May it not be better to 
find a more general principle than just handedness and its use ? 

I suggest that we think more in terms of a physiologically ap- 
propriate set of more general mechanisms which may subsume 
several other human functions under the same principle. It 
seems to me that we must look for abilities to develop gen- 
eralized dexterity of use for certain kinds of end purposes for 
any or all muscular outputs from the central nervous system. If 
there is a task to be done, such as lifting a stone, whether in 
water or air, a given animal may turn it over with his foot, with 
his flipper, with his hand, with his tail, or with any other body 
part with which he could obtain a purchase on the stone. The 
end task is turning over the stone, to obtain food or whatever. 
It makes little difference what kind of muscular equipment he 
uses just so he uses it appropriately. 

Let me illustrate with a more complex example seen in our 
own laboratory. A baby dolphin was being nursed in a small 
tank artificially. It apparently needed the constant attention of 
a human attendant. Its mother had not been caught with it. 
After several days it discovered that if it banged on the bottom 
of the tank with its flipper in a rhythmic fashion it could bring 
the humans from the other room. (We heard a loud thumping 
sound transmitted from a hydrophone in its tank.) Previous to 
this it attempted to bring the humans from the other room by 
whistling the distress call of the dolphins ; unlike its mother, the 
humans did not respond to the whistle. In a sense this distress 
call is in his instinctual pattern for obtaining food and aid by 
other dolphins. The secondary adaptation and the new effort 
was that of manipulating the flipper rather than the phonation 
mechanism in the blowhole. Thus driven by whatever the in- 


stinctual need is, it tried different outputs from its brain and 
finally discovered one which brought the desired results. This 
ability to change the output from unsuccessful ones to successful 
ones seems to me to be evidence of a "higher nervous system" 
function. Of course in fine gradation and small differences, the 
same kind of pattern can be show^n for smaller-brained animals. 
It is the seeking a new^ output, not necessarily instinctually tied 
in, and the radicalness of the change of output, plus the relating 
of many of the variables to one another thus generating the nev;' 
output, that seems to be the hallmark of the large brain. These 
problems are not single variable ones with simple cause and 
effect, but are simultaneous multiple variable ones. 

Among the manipulable outputs (muscular groups) I would 
include those of respiration and phonation. The dexterous and 
finely differentiated use of these muscles generates all the com- 
plexities of human speech. As more of the physiology and psy- 
chology of human speech are analyzed and made part of our 
sciences, the sharper will be our criteria for separating man from 
the other animals, and from those with smaller brains. Scientific 
descriptions of human speech are of relatively recent origin. 
Scientific descriptions of the physiology of the vocal tract are 
anything but a closed book at the present time. The neuro- 
anatomy and neurophysiology of speech is in a relatively primi- 
tive state of development as a science. With such a lack of knowl- 
edge of the intimate and detailed mechanisms concerned, it 
would be rather presumptuous to evaluate at the present time 
their role in the measurement and testing of intelligence and 
intellectual capacity. 

However, I wish to point out that these factors are important 
in such an evaluation and become even more important in terms 
of evaluating a species that is not human. Thus it is necessary, 
in order to evaluate the inteUigence of even the dolphins, much 
less the whales, to know something of their abilities in the areas 
of phonation and other kinds of bodily gestures and manipula- 


tions and hence in their abilities to communicate with one an- 
other. As I impHed in Man and Dolphin, it is not possible to 
measure accurately the intelligence of any other being than that 
of a human being, mainly because we do not exchange ideas 
through any known communication mode with such beings. 

The difficulties of such understanding as we can possibly gain 
of the real situation of the whales in the sea and their adaptation 
as mammals to this particular environment, can be illustrated by 
their use of sonic generators for the location of their prey and of 
the boundaries of their container by means of the perception of 
echoes. As is well known, the small mammals, such as the bat, 
use this mechanism in air." The bottlenose dolphin also uses this 
same kind of mechanism underwater.' " '" Because these animals 
are immersed in a medium of a density and a sound velocity 
comparable to the density and sound velocity of their own bodies, 
they can presumably use their sonar also in looking, as it were, 
inside one another's body.' The sonar view of the inside of the 
body of a dolphin may possibly be very instructive to other 
dolphins and possibly even aid in diagnosis of the causes of cer- 
tain problems, especially of those of the baby by the mother. For 
example, their buoyancy depends upon maintaining their center 
of gravity below their center of buoyancy; otherwise they turn 
over and drown. If the baby develops gas in stomach #i, he 
can develop problems in his buoyancy relationship which turn 
him over; however, the mother dolphin can probably easily find 
out whether or not there is a bubble of gas in the baby's stomach 
by her echo ranging abilities. When she discovers such a bubble, 
she can then burp the baby by banging on the belly with her 
beak. We have seen such operations take place in our tanks. 
Here is another instance of the animal using a given output, 
coupled with the proper input, to diagnose a problem and to 
manipulate other outputs in the solution of that problem. How 
much of this is labeled "instinctual," i.e., "unlearned," is purely a 
matter of intellectual taste. 


In the sea it is necessary to use sonic mechanisms for sightings 
and recognition. If one goes into the sea one realizes that one's 
range of vision even under the best of circumstances is rarely 
beyond lOO feet and most of the time is less than that even near 
the brilliantly lit surface of the tropical seas. With sonic means, 
one's range is extended up to several miles under the best of 
circumstances and under the worst to a few hundred feet. 

Recently we have obtained evidence that shows that the 
dolphins communicate most of their information in the band of 
frequencies extending from about 8 kilocycles to 20 kilocycles 
by means of whistles and sonic clicks." However, as shown by 
Schevill and Lawrence, they can hear sounds at least to 120 kilo- 
cycles'' and as shown by Kellogg can produce sounds at least 
to 170 kilocycles.'" We have recently been investigating the 
higher frequency bands in these animals and have reliable 
evidence that they can hear at least to 200 kilocycles and can 
produce sounds to at least 200 kilocycles.' " With the proper 
electronic equipment one can listen to the nearer portions of the 
upper band and quickly determine that they can transmit in 
these bands without the necessity of transmitting in the (lower 
frequency) communication band. The high frequency informa- 
tion is broadcast in a narrow beam off the front of the beak as 
was first detected by Kenneth Norris.'* 

In these bands we find that they can produce musical tones 
or individual clickings or hissing-like noises. Recently we have 
found that an emotionally upset animal threatens other animals 
and humans by productions of very large amounts of energy 
both in the sonic communication band and in the ultrasonic 
bands. Recently we have had the opportunity of working with 
an old bull of 450 pounds weight who is so old his teeth have 
been ground down flat. In terms of his skeleton, he is the most 
massive animal we have ever seen. When he is irritated, his 
"barks" have sizable amounts of energy from about 0.5 to at 
least 300 kilocycles. He is also capable of transmitting in bands 


between lOO to 300 kilocycles without transmitting anything in 
the band from 8 kilocycles to 20 kilocycles in a narrow beam 
straight ahead of his body. When he is upset by the activities of 
a younger male, they face one another and blast at one another 
with short barks of this sort, meanwhile "threatening" by open- 
ing their mouths. 

Since they live immersed in an acoustic world quite strange to 
us, we have great difficulty in appreciating the full life of these 
animals with respect to one another and their environment. 
From birth they are constantly bombarded with signals from the 
other animals of the same species and by echoes from the envi- 
ronment which they can apparently use very efficiently. Their 
ultrasonic (to us) emissions are not merely "sonar," but are inter- 
personal and even emotional. These animals are not inanimate, 
cold pieces of sonar apparatus. They use their ultrasounds and 
their high-pitched sounds interpersonally with fervor in every- 
thing they do.'" 

We have demonstrated that the dolphins are quite capable of 
using vocal outputs as a demand for further rewards or for 
surcease from punishment. Their ability in the vocal sphere is 
quite sophisticated. In addition to the ultrasonic matters men- 
tioned above, their sonic performance, when in close contact 
with man, is astonishing. In 1957 I discovered their ability to 
produce sounds similar to our speech sounds.'" During the last 
two years we have had many opportunities to pursue further 
observations in this area. This emerging ability seems to be an 
adaptation to a new environment which includes Man." They 
quickly discover that they can obtain various kinds of rewards 
by making what we now call "humanoid emissions." When 
they make a sound which sounds similar to a human syllable or 
word, we express our pleasure by rewarding the animals in 
various ways. We have been exploring what some of these re- 
wards are in order to elicit further such behavior under better 


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Figure 6. Early Drawings of the Brain of the Dolphin and 
of the Porpoise by Tiedemann. 

These drawings were reproduced by H. G. L. Reichenbach in his 
Anatomia Mammalium in 1845. These are more accurate renditions and 
show the lateral expansion of these fine brains. (Courtesy of the Library 
of Congress, Washington, D.C.) 


Figure 7. The First 20th-century Drawing of a Dolphin Brain (G. Elliot Smith, 

Lateral view. The proportions are excellent, as are the gyri and sulci. Smith 
gives the species as Delphinus tursio; this probably corresponds to the modern 
Tursiops truncatus or bottlenose dolphin. This brain closely resembles that of 
Tursiops shown in photos in reference 7. Langworthy's 1931 drawings ('Tor- 
poise") are also similar (Brain, 54, 225, 1931). 

' 5 






Figure 8. Mesial View of Same Brain as in Figure 7. 

We demonstrated that, like other animals, the monkey, the 
rat, etc., these animals can be rewarded by stimulating the 
proper places in their brains." '" In a recent series of experiments 
we have been establishing the controls necessary to understand- 
ing what brain rewards mean in terms of natural physiology. 
We have demonstrated quite formally that rubbing the skin of 
these animals with our hands is a rewarding experience to them; 
they will seek it vocally and by body gestures and give certain 
kinds of performance in order to obtain this reward. 

Recently we have found that "vocal transactions" are a reward 
to these animals.'' (See below for human analogies in the 
child.) This seems to be one of the basic factors in our being able 
to elicit humanoid emissions. The vocal transactions are started 
by a human shouting some words over the water of the tank in 
which the animal is residing. A single word may be used or 
many words — it makes little difference. Eventually the animal 
in the tank will raise his blowhole out of water and make some 
sort of a humanoid emission or whistle or clicks in a delphinese 
fashion. If the human immediately replies with some word or 
words, the animal may immediately respond, the human 
answers, and a vocal transaction is under way. We have shown 
that dolphins naturally do this with one another in both their 
whistle and clicking spheres, and sometimes do it in the barking 
sphere." How much of this is "instinctual" and how much is not, 
there is no way of knowing at the present time. 

A physical analysis of such vocal transactions shows them to 
be formally quite as complex as the vocal transactions between 
human beings. In other words, the dolphin may say one word 
or a syllable-like emission, or many, one right after the other, as 
may the humans. If the human says one word, the dolphin may 
say one, two, three, or four, and if the human says one, two, 
three, or four, the dolphin may say one. There is no necessary 
master-slave kind of relationship in the delphinic emissions. 

In our early reports we gave examples which were single 


words which sounded like the words that the human made." ' 
This presentation led to misunderstandings among our sci- 
entific colleagues. It looked as if the animals were doing a slavish 
tape-recorder rendition of what we were doing in a fashion 
similar to that of a parrot or a Mynah bird. All along we have 
known that the dolphins did not do such a slavish job and were 
obviously doing a much more complicated series of actions. We 
are just beginning to appreciate how to analyze and what to 
analyze in these transactions. As I stated in Man and Dolphin 
about 10% of these emissions sound like human speech. In other 
words, the dolphin is "saying" far more than we have trans- 
mitted to the scientific community to date. We hesitate to say 
anything more about this until we begin to understand what 
is going on in greater detail. We are making progress slowly. 

Let me then make an appeal to you — a long appeal to your 
logical and rational views of man and cetaceans. Here I review 
the above points in more general terms, and develop a plea for a 
new science — a new discipline combining the best of science 
with the best of the humanities. 

Several old questions should be revived and asked again with 
a new attitude, with more modern techniques of investigation 
and with more persistence. It may take twenty years or more to 
develop good answers; meanwhile the intellectual life of man 
will profit in the undertaking. There is something exciting and 
even at times disturbing in this quest."' The bits and pieces may 
have started before historical times. In each age of man a new 
fragment was allowed to be recorded and passed on to subse- 
quent generations. Each generation judged and rejudged the 
evidence from the older sources on the basis of its then cur- 
rent beliefs and on the basis of its new experiences, if any. At 
times good evidence was attenuated, distorted, and even de- 
stroyed in the name of the then current dogma. 

Today we have similar problems; our current behefs blind 
us, too. Evidence right before the eye can be distorted by the 


eye of the beholder quite as powerfully as it has been in previous 
ages of man. We can only hope that we have achieved greater 
insight and greater objectivity than some of our ancestors. The 
winds and currents of bias and prejudice blow hard and run 
deep in the minds of men. In one's own mind these factors are 
difficult to see, and when seen, difficult to attenuate and to allow 
for their influence. If at times I scold my own species, do not 
take it too personally; I am scolding myself more than you. 

You can see by now that I believe that some of the answers to 
the quest are in our own minds. We must develop, imaginatively 
and humbly, numbers of alternative hypotheses to expand the 
testable areas of the intellect and bring to the investigation new 
mental instruments to test and to collect facts germane to our 

To ask about the intelligence of another species, we somehow 
first ask: how large and well-developed is its brain? Somewhat 
blindly we link brain size (a biological fact) to intelligence (a 
behavioral and psychological concept). We know, in the case of 
our own species, that if the brain fails to develop, intelligence 
also fails to develop. 

How do we judge in our own species that intelligence de- 
velops or fails to develop? We work with the child and care- 
fully observe its performances of common tasks and carefully 
measure its acquisition of speech quantitatively. We measure 
(among other factors) size of word vocabulary, adequacy of 
pronunciation, lengths of phrases and sentences, appropriateness 
of use, levels of abstraction achieved, and the quality of the 
logical processes used. We also measure speed of grasping new 
games with novel sets of rules and strategy; games physical 
and/or games verbal and vocal. 

Normal mental growth patterns of human children have been 
measured extensively in both performance and in vocal speech 
acquisition. I have taken the liberty of relating these to the 
normal growth of brain weight of children. 



Threshold Quantities for Human Acquisition of 

Speech: Age and Brain Weight^ 


Brain weight' 

Speech stages^ 



(first appearances) 



Responds to human voice, cooing, 
and vocalizes pleasure. 



Vocal play. Eagerness and dis- 
pleasure expressed vocally. 



Imitates sounds. 



First word. 



Imitates syllables and words. 
Second word. 



Vocabulary expands rapidly. 



Names objects and pictures. 



Combines words in speech. 



Uses pronouns, understands 
prepositions, uses phrases 
and sentences. 

^ Lilly, John C. Man and Dolphin: A Developing Relationship. London: Victor Gol- 
lancz, 1962. 

"Boston Children's Hospital data from 1,198 records, in Coppoletta, J. M., and 
Wolbach, S. B., "Body Length and Organ Weights of Infants and Children," American 
Journal of Pathology, IX (1933), 55-70. 

^ Summarized from McCarthy, Dorothea, "Language Development in Children," in 
Carmichael, Leonard, ed.. Manual of Child Psychology. New York: John Wiley, 1946, 
pp. 476-581. 

Table i shows relations between age, brain weight, and speech 
performance, up to 23 months, 1070 grams, and the use of full 
sentences. By 17 years, the brain reaches and levels ofl at 1450 
grams and the number of words, levels of abstraction, etc., are so 
large as to be difficult to assess. 

In these processes, what are die minimum necessary but not 
necessarily sufficient factors?'" On the biological side, modern 
theory concentrates on two factors: total numbers of neurons 
and the number of interconnections between them. On the psy- 
chological side, modern theory concentrates on the numbers of 
occurrences of reinforced contingencies experienced, the num- 


ber of repetitions, and the number of adequate presentations 
from the accepted set of the consensus known as "native lan- 
guage," and the total numbers of sets in the stored memories at 
a given age. In addition, of course, is the adequate development 
of the transmitting and of the receiving equipment needed for 
speech and its ancillary behaviors. 

On the biological side, modern neurology says the number of 
neurons in the human brain reaches maximum value before 
birth at about 13 billions. After this point, the increase in weight 
consists of increased numbers of fibers, increased connections, in- 
creased size of elements, and increased efficiency and selectivity 
of transmission. Thus the increase in weight of the human 
brain from about 400 to 1400 grams seems to be devoted to im- 
proving its internal (as well as external) communication, stor- 
age, and computation networks. As I have stated elsewhere 
{Man and Dolphin), it is my impression that there exist critical 
threshold values in the brain's growth pattern at which certain 
kinds of performance become possible. Complex speech acquisi- 
tion seems related to brain weights of 800 to 1000 grams, but no 
smaller. This assumes, of course, numbers of neurons (lo'") 
and numbers of connections and opportunities for learning and 
time to learn commonly found with humans. 

The critical psychological factors in speech acquisition are 
slowly being dug out and described."^ ~ Among these the most 
important seem to be a continuous background of presentations 
to the child in rewarding circumstances of speech and its close 
relations to objects, actions, satisfaction of needs, and persons. 
Imitation of one's use of facial and vocal apparatus appears 
spontaneously in the happy child. The virtuosity of the child 
as a mimic is truly astonishing. 

I am also impressed by evidence for what I call the "transac- 
tional drive." A bright child seems to seek and respond best to 
those persons who respond in kind, back and forth in exchanges 
of sounds and linked actions. For example, if one starts such a 


transaction with a child of 22 months with a loud word, if he is 
ready, he may return his version of the word or a slight variant; 
if one replies with another variant the child rephes with still a 
third, or even suddenly with a new word, and so on back and 
forth in a transactional vocal dance. Or one may reply to a child 
who invites such an exchange to begin. Such exchanges seem 
to function as rewards of themselves, and hence the name, 
"transactional drive." This phenomenon is more than mere me- 
chanical slavish mimicry. It seems to aid in perfecting pronun- 
ciation, increases vocabulary, increases the bonds with other 
persons, serves to substitute the "consensus-dictionary" words 
for the private baby words, and is thus essential to learning a 
language of one's own species. It is thus that the child "becomes 

As the child ages and grows, the exchanges lengthen, and the 
time during which each member of the dyad is quiet while the 
other speaks becomes longer, until finally for a half hour or so, 
I am lecturing and you are at least quiet, if not listening. 

How does all of this relate to modern dolphins, porpoises, and 
whales ? From the vast array of scientific facts and theories about 
our own species, a few of those which I feel are useful in ap- 
proaching another species to evaluate its intelligence are dis- 
cussed above. But before I make connections there, let us attenu- 
ate some interfering attitudes and points of view, some myths 
not so modern; these interfering presumptions can be stated as 
follows : 

(i) No animal has a language comparable to a human language. 

(2) No animal is as intelHgent as man. 

(3) Man can adapt himself to any environment quite as well as any 

(4) Intelligence and intellect can be expressed only in the ways man 
expresses or has expressed them. 

(5) All animal behavior is instinct-determined. 

(6) None of man's thought and behavior is so determined. 


(y) Only man thinks and plans; animals are incapable of having a 
mental life. 

(8) Philosophy and contemplative and analytic thought are character- 
istic only of man, not of any animal. 

All of these statements stem from ignorance and anthropo- 
centricity. For example, who are we to say that whales, dolphins, 
and porpoises are to be included as "dumb beasts" ? It would be 
far more objective and humble to tell the truth — we don't know 
about these animals because we haven't "been there yet." We 
have not lived in the sea, naked and alone, or even in mobile 
groups, without steel containers to keep out the sea itself. For 
purposes of discussion let us make the following assumptions 
which push counter to the current of bias running deep among 

(i) Man has not yet been willing to investigate the possibility of an- 
other intelligent species. 

(2) Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are assumed to be "dumb beasts" 
with litde or no evidence for this presumption. 

(3) We do not yet know very much about these animals — their neces- 
sities, their intelligences, their lives, the possibility of their communica- 

(4) It is possible for man to investigate these matters objectively with 
courage and perseverance. 

(5) To properly evaluate whales, dolphins, porpoises, we must use 
everything we have intellectually, all available knowledge, humanistic as 
well as scientific. 

Our best knowledge of ourselves as a species, as humans, is in 
the humanities and in the budding, growing sciences of man. 
In pursuit of understanding of the whales, dolphins, and por- 
poises, we need, at least at the beginning, a large view which 
is in the human sciences and in the humanities. The sciences of 
animals are necessarily restrictive in their view, and hence not 
yet apphcable to our problems. 

The history of the animal sciences shows that they have had 
grave difficulties with the fact that the observers are present and 

human. These sciences, hke physics, chemistry, and biology, play 
the game as if the human observer were not there and the sys- 
tems were isolated from man. This is fine strategy for "man-less 
nature" studies and quite appropriate for such studies. 

However, I submit to you another view, for a science of man 
and animal, their relationships to one another. Modern man and 
modern dolphin and whale may be best investigated in the 
framework of a new science one might call "anthropo-zoology" 
or "zoo-anthropology." This science is a deep study of man, of 
the animal, of their mutual relations, present and potential. In 
this discipline scientists encourage close relations with the ani- 
mal, and study the developing relation between man and so- 
called "beast." 

For the last three years in the Communication Research In- 
stitute^ we have been pursuing an investigative path in diis new 
science with the pair "man and bottlenose dolphin." We have 
encouraged and pursued studies in classical sciences such as 
neurophysiology, animal psychology, anatomy, biophysics, and 
zoology. We have also initiated and pursued this new science 
of the man and dolphin relation; these "homo-delphic" studies, 
if you will, are triply demanding: we must not only know our 
animal objectively but we must know man objectively, and our- 
selves subjectively. We cannot fight shy of involving ourselves 
in the investigation as objects also. In this science man, and 
hence one's own self, are part of the system under investigation. 
This is not an easy discipline. One must guard quite as rigor- 
ously (or even more so) against the pitfalls of wishful thinking 
and sensational fantasy as in other scientific endeavors. This field 
requires a self-candor, an inner honesty, and a humility quite 
difficult to acquire. But I maintain that good science can be done 
here, that the field is a proper one for properly trained and prop- 
erly motivated investigators. 



1. Plinius Secundus. Natural History. Ill, Book IX. 

2. Aristotle. Historia Animalium. Books I-IX. 

3. Donaldson, Henry H. The Growth of the Brain. London: 
Walter Scott, 1895. 

4. Smith, G. Elliot, in Royal College of Surgeons of England, 
Museum, Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue of the Physiological 
Series of Comparative Anatomy. London: Taylor and Francis, 1902, 

PP- 349. 351. 356- 

5. Scammon, Charles Melville. The Marine Mammals of the 'North- 
Western Coast of North America, Described and Illustrated: To- 
gether with an Account of the American W hale-Fishery. San Fran- 
cisco: J. H. Carmany, 1874, p. 78. 

6. von Bonin, Gerhardt. "Brain- Weight and Body- Weight in Mam- 
mals," Journal of General Psychology, XVI (1937), 379-389- 

7. Lilly, John C. Man and Dolphin. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 
1961; London: Victor Gollancz, 1962. 

8. McBride, Arthur F., and Hebb, D. O. "Behavior of the Captive 
Bottle-Nose Dolphin, Tursiops truncatus," Journal of Comparative 
and Physiological Psychology ,X1A (1948), 111-123. 

9. Griffin, Donald R. Echoes of Bats and Men. Garden City, N.Y.: 
Doubleday, 1959. 

10. Kellogg, Winthrop N. Porpoises and Sonar. Chicago: Univer- 
sity of Chicago Press, 1961. 

11. Lilly, John C, and Miller, Alice M. "Vocal Exchanges between 
Dolphins; Bottlenose Dolphins 'Talk' to Each Other with Whistles, 
Clicks, and a Variety of Other Noises," Science, CXXXIV (1961), 

12. Schevill, William E., and Lawrence, Barbara. "Auditory Re- 
sponse of a Bottlenosed Porpoise, Tursiops truncatus, to Frequencies 
above 100 KC," Journal of Experimental Zoology, CXXIV (1953), 

13. Lilly, John C. "Vocal Behavior of the Bottlenose Dolphin," 
Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, CVI (1926), 520- 


14. Norris, Kenneth S., Prescott, John H., Asa-Dorian, Paul V., and 
Perkins, Paul. "An Experimental Demonstration of Echo-Location 
Behavior in the Porpoise, Tursiops truncatus (Montagu)," Biological 
Bulletin, CXX (1961), 163-176. 

15. Lilly, John C. "Interspecies Communication," McGraw-Hill 
Yearbook^ of Science and Technology ig62. New York: McGraw-Hill, 
1962, pp. 279-281. 

16. Lilly, John C. "Some Considerations Regarding Basic Mecha- 
nisms of Positive and Negative Types of Motivations," American 
Journal of Psychiatry, CXV (1958), 498-504. 

17. Lilly, John C. "Some Aspects of the Adaptation of the Mam- 
mals to the Ocean," in John Field, ed., Handboo\ of Physiology. 
Washington: American Physiological Society (in press). 

18. Lilly, John C, and Miller, A. M. "Operant Conditioning of the 
Bottlenose Dolphin with Electrical Stimulation of the Brain," Journal 
of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, LV (1962), 73-79. 

19. Lilly, John C. "Some Problems of Productive and Creative Sci- 
entific Research with Man and Dolphin," Archii/es of General Psy- 
chiatry (1963, in press). 

20. Lilly, John C. "Critical Brain Size and Language," Perspectives 
in Biology and Medicine (in press). 

21. Skinner, Burrhus F. Verbal Behavior. New York: Appleton- 
Century-Crofts, 1957. 

22. Lewis, Morris M. Hotv Children Learn to Spea\. New York: 
Basic Books, 1959. 

23. Support for the program of the Communication Research In- 
stitute, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, is from the National Institute of 
Mental Health and the National Institute of Neurological Diseases 
and BHndness of the National Institutes of Health; from the Coyle 
Foundation; from the Office of Naval Research; from the U. S. Air 
Force Office of Scientific Research; and from private gifts and con- 
tributions to the Communication Research Institute. 


William Andrews Clark 
Memorial Library 
Seminar Papers 

Editing Donne and Pope. 1952. 
Problems in the Editing of Donne's Sermons, by George R. Potter. 
Editorial Problems in Eighteenth-Century Poetry, by John Butt. 
Music and Literature in England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth 
Centuries. 1953. 

Poetry and Music in the Seventeenth Century, by James E. PhilHps. 
Some Aspects o£ Music and Literature in the Eighteenth Century, 
by Bertrand H. Bronson. 
Restoration and Augustan Prose. 1956. 
Restoration Prose, by James R. Sutherland. 

The Ironic Tradition in Augustan Prose from Swift to Johnson, by 
Ian Watt. 
Anglo-American Cultural Relations in the Seventeenth and Eight- 
eenth Centuries. 1958. 

The Puritans in Old and New England, by Leon Howard. 
Wilham Byrd: Citizen of the Enlightenment, by Louis B. Wright. 
The Beginnings of Autobiography in England, by James M. Osborn. 

Scitntific Literature in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England. 
Enghsh Medical Literature in the Sixteenth Century, by C. D. 

Enghsh Scientific Literature in the Seventeenth Century, by A. 
Rupert Hall. 
Francis Bacon's Intellectual Milieu. A Paper delivered by Virgil K. 
Whitaker at a meeting at the Clark Library, 18 November 1961, 
celebrating the 400th anniversary of Bacon's birth. 
Methods of Textual Editing, by Vinton A. Dearing. 1962.